Operating in global markets can be difficult. Each side may have completely different cultural and social values that conflict. Traditionally, many global businesses seek to engage in global markets by avoiding topics that may lead to strong emotional or political reactions in the home of the target market.
Americans value freedom and democracy and support the global push for these values. In contrast, China is not a democracy and its government controls the level of freedom its citizens are allowed to enjoy. Companies dealing with China tiptoe this delicacy in order to protect access and revenue.
For the NBA, one tweet may have created irreparable damage to a decades old relationship that helps make basketball a global attraction. Adam Silver is put in an unenviable position, but one that comes with the territory, in having to restore this relationship.
Silver must not further damage with China, while avoiding abandoning our strongly held domestic values. Protect Darryl Morey’s freedom of speech, but avoid connecting his sentiment on China with the NBA’S interests.
Political and economic tensions between the United States and China will undoubtedly create more of these type of conflicts. But, our businesses should not kiss the ring of a foreign leader. They should also aim to not offend.